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India From a Train

I had been in Varanasi briefly before I became very ill with a high fever. After a few days, when I was strong enough to stand, I decided to take a train to Bodh Gaya, a pilgrimage center where Gautama Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. I wanted to sit under the Bodhi tree where the Buddha sat speaking to his followers. As usual, the train was packed, and I sat on the aisle with a very nice Indian family.

I had barely taken any photos in Varanasi due to fever and cramps, was still too weak to walk around the crowded and jolting train with a camera, so I photographed the only things I was strong enough to accomplish: leaning in front of the very patient family every so often to stick my camera up to the horizontal bars of the window, but especially when we pulled into tiny, nearly desolate stops in the middle of the night, to snap a photo of India and its denizens of the night streaking by. For me, the colors and the flowing clothes of the people on the

myself,with fever.jpg

Jeff Hersch, Fever Train,
circa 2009

platforms, blurred by the speed of the train, is as reflective of India as anything I have photographed in sharp focus and leaves more to the imagination. And India is nothing if not an enormous extension of one's imagination.

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